www.wvgazettemail.com U.S. and World http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2016, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers East Coast prepares to dig out after record-breaking snowfall http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160124/GZ01/160129778 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160124/GZ01/160129778 Sun, 24 Jan 2016 08:59:28 -0500 By Verena Dobnik and Ben Nuckols By By Verena Dobnik and Ben Nuckols Associated Press

NEW YORK - Brilliant sunshine and gently rising temperatures followed the mammoth blizzard that paralyzed Washington and set a single-day snowfall record in New York City, enabling millions to dig out Sunday and enjoy the winter.

The timing could not have been better: Most people stayed home as the heaviest snow fell Friday evening and all day Saturday, enabling crews to clear roads and rails, then awoke Sunday to see grimy cities blanketed in lovely but unfamiliar terrains.

"It feels like old times when there weren't any cars," said Taylor Scheulke, an associate producer at National Geographic television who made a 36-hour time-lapse video of snow piling up outside her Washington home and posted it on YouTube.

Treacherous conditions remained: Waist-high piles of plowed snow blocked Manhattan bus stops, forcing riders to risk waiting on streets, inches from traffic. Judy Tenenbaum refused, and walked a dozen blocks to reach a stop where at least some snow was cleared.

"I decided, I don't want to die," she said, boarding a bus to the YMCA.

At least 28 deaths were blamed on the weather, first in car crashes, and then while shoveling snow or breathing carbon monoxide.

The storm dropped snow from the Gulf Coast to New England. The heaviest official report was 42 inches, in Glengary, West Virginia, but huge accumulations elsewhere stranded tens of thousands of travelers and forced countless others to change plans.

Broadway shows reopened on the Great White Way Sunday after going dark at the last minute during the snowstorm, but Bruce Springsteen called off his Sunday concert at Madison Square Garden. Museums remained closed in Washington, and the House of Representatives postponed votes until February, citing the storm's impact on travel.

Flying remained particularly messy after nearly 12,000 weekend flights were canceled. Airports resumed very limited service in New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, which said it got an entire winter's snow in two days. Washington-area airports remained closed Sunday after the punishing blizzard.

Major airlines also canceled hundreds of flights for Monday. Along with clearing snow and ice from facilities and equipment, the operators of airlines, train and transit systems had to figure out how to get snowbound employees to work.

Amtrak operated a reduced number of trains on all its routes, serving many people who couldn't get around otherwise, spokesman Marc Magliari said. But bus and rail service was expected to be limited around the region into Monday, making for a complicated commute.

As a sign of how much digging out remains to be done around the nation's capital, public schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, which recorded some of the highest snow totals, including 38.5 inches in North Potomac.

Still, with 30 hours or more to restore power and clear streets after the last flakes fell, millions were expected to slog back to work.

The storm dropped 26.8 inches in Central Park, the second-most recorded since 1869 and just short of 26.9 inches set in February 2006. But the 26.6 inches that fell on Saturday was the city's record for a single day.

It appears to be Baltimore's biggest single snowstorm, with a preliminary total of 29.2 inches at the city's airport topping its previous record of 26.8 inches during the "Presidents Day Storm" of 2003.

Washington's records were less clear. The official 3-day total of 17.8 inches measured at Reagan National Airport was impossibly short of accumulations recorded elsewhere in the city. An official total of 22.4 inches landed at the National Zoo, but since some of that fell Friday night, it might not have beat the city's single-day record of 21 inches, set on Jan. 28, 1922.

The Zoo was making hearts sing in other ways - even though the grounds remained closed through Monday, an online video of its giant panda Tian Tian making snow angels got more than 48 million views.

Joining the fun, Jeffrey Perez got more than half a million views of his own online video, after climbing into a panda suit and rolling around in the snow outside his home in Millersville, Maryland.

Watching her young daughters frolic in the snow in Toms River, N.J., Mary Desmond joked that they had made it through the storm "without killing any one."

"With little ones the cabin fever is really strong," she said. "They were really excited that it finally snowed here and wanted to play in it."

Coastal cities saw some flooding, but no significant damage. Many of the deaths had more to do with human nature than Mother Nature.

In Passaic, N.J., on Sunday, a mother and year-old son watching their family shovel snow from the apparent safety of their car died because the snow blocked the tailpipe; her 3-year-old daughter, also in the car, was in critical condition, The Record reported.

David Perrotto, 56, met a similar fate in Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania, Saturday night, after a passing snowplow buried him inside his car as he was trying to dig it out. An elderly couple in Greenville, South Carolina also were poisoned, by a gas-powered generator in their garage, after they lost power.

And in North Carolina, an intoxicated, belligerent man whose car spun out and got stuck in the snow shot and killed a man who tried to help him, Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said. Marvin Jacob Lee was finally arrested by a SWAT team after repeatedly firing at Jefferson Heavner, the sheriff said.

Roofs collapsed on a church in Pennsylvania and a historic theater in Virginia, causing no injuries. The roof also fell in on a barn outside Frederick, Maryland, which got a total of 33.5 inches. That one killed some of the cows a farmer had herded inside.

"It kills me because I killed them by putting them in the barn," Douglas Fink said. "I was trying to protect them, but they probably would have been better off just standing outside."

The storm delivered bursts of thunder and lightning, and winds reached a hurricane-force 75 mph at Dewey Beach, Delaware, and Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, the National Weather Service said. From Virginia to New York, sustained winds topped 30 mph and gusted to around 50 mph.

All that changed to gorgeous blue skies and sunshine on Sunday - just right for a huge snowball fight in Baltimore, where more than 600 people responded to organizer Aaron Brazell's invite on Facebook.

"I knew people would be cooped up in their houses and wanting to come outside," said Brazell, who was beaned by multiple blasts of perfectly soft but firm snow.

Nuckols reported from Burke, Virginia. Contributors include Associated Press writers William Mathis, Scott Mayerowitz and Jake Pearson in New York; Alex Brandon and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington; Jessica Gresko in Arlington, Virginia; and Juliet Linderman in Baltimore.

This story has been corrected to delete references to single-day record for Washington, where the 22.4 inches at the zoo was total, not single-day accumulation.

At least 9 killed in snowstorm-related deaths http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160123/ARTICLE/160129795 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160123/ARTICLE/160129795 Sat, 23 Jan 2016 03:05:46 -0500 By The Associated Press By By The Associated Press At least nine people have been killed in accidents as a snowstorm pounds the eastern part of the U.S. Some details of the deaths:

- A man died in southeastern Kentucky when his car collided with a salt truck Thursday, state police said. Billy R. Stevens, 59, of Williamsburg was pronounced dead at the scene on state Route 92 in Whitley County. Two passengers were being treated at a hospital.
-- Gov. Pat McCrory said one person injured in an accident in Wilkes County on Wednesday evening has died, and another motorist was killed Friday in a crash on Interstate 95 in Johnston County.
- A 60-year-old woman driving her car in Stokes County near her home about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday hit an "extremely icy" patch, went down an embankment and turned over in a creek, the state Highway Patrol said. Mary Williams was killed in the accident.
- In neighboring Forsyth County, 55-year-old Rosa McCollough-Leake was killed when she slid on an icy roadway, crossed into oncoming traffic and hit a pickup truck head-on. Three people had minor injuries.
-- A 4-year-old boy died Friday afternoon after the pickup truck carrying his family on Interstate 77 near Troutman spun out of control and crashed, said State Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Baker. The Ford pickup carrying two adults and their three children all under 8 years old slammed into a tow truck working to haul out a vehicle that had run off the highway earlier, Baker said. Troopers say the boy was restrained in a child seat and died as a result of the impact.
- A car slid off the roadway due to speed and slick conditions, killing the driver and injuring a passenger, the Knox County sheriff's department said.
- A couple was in a vehicle that slid off an icy road and plummeted down a 300-foot embankment Wednesday night, killing the woman who was driving, said Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford. Stacy Sherrill's husband, a passenger in the car, survived the crash. It took him several hours to climb the embankment and report the accident.
- A man was killed in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, on Friday after his car went off the snowy George Washington highway and hit a tree, said Officer Leo Kosinski.

It starts postcard-pretty, but this snowstorm is deadly http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160122/ARTICLE/160129800 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160122/ARTICLE/160129800 Fri, 22 Jan 2016 20:53:56 -0500 By JESSICA GRESKO and SETH BORENSTEIN By By JESSICA GRESKO and SETH BORENSTEIN Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - A storm that arrived postcard-pretty in the nation's capital Friday was morphing into a painful, even paralyzing blizzard with gale-force winds pushing heavy snow and coastal flooding. One in seven Americans could get at least half a foot of snow by Sunday, and Washington could see snowdrifts more than 4 feet high.

The first flakes were lovely, but forecasters warned that much, much more was on its way.
Not that anyone will see the worst of it: Much heavier snow and wind gusting to 50 mph should create blinding whiteout conditions once the storm joins up with a low pressure system off the coast, said Bruce Sullivan, a forecaster at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Two feet or more of snowfall is forecast for Washington and Baltimore, and nearly as much for Philadelphia. New York City's expected total was upped Friday to a foot or more. But Sullivan said "the winds are going to be the real problem; that's when we'll see possible power outages."
The result could create snowdrifts 4 to 5 feet high, so even measuring it for records could be difficult, he said.
By evening, wet, heavy snow was falling in the capital, making downed power lines more likely, and yet many people remained on the roads, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said. "Find a safe place and stay there," she beseeched.
Anyone trying to travel in this mess risks getting stuck for hours, marooned in odd places, or killed, authorities warned. At least seven people died in storm-related crashes before the worst of the storm, including Stacy Sherrill, whose car plummeted off an icy road in Tennessee. Her husband survived after climbing for hours up a 300-foot embankment.
"They're slipping and sliding all over the place," said Kentucky State Police Trooper Lloyd Cochran - as soon as one wreck was cleared, other cars slammed into each other, causing gridlock for hours on interstate highways.
Conditions quickly became treacherous all along the path of the storm. Arkansas and Tennessee got 8 inches; Kentucky got more than a foot, and states across the Deep South grappled with icy, snow-covered roads and power outages. Two tornadoes arrived along with the snow in Mississippi.
The storm could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage, weather service director Louis Uccellini said.
All the ingredients have come together for a massive snowfall: The winds initially picked up warm water from the Gulf of Mexico, and now the storm is taking much more moisture from the warmer-than-usual Gulf Stream as it rotates slowly over mid-Atlantic states, with the District of Columbia in its bulls-eye.
At least meteorologists appear to have gotten this storm right. Predictions converged and millions of people got clear warnings, well in advance. Blizzard warnings stretched to just north of New York City. Boston and other New England cities should get a less windy winter storm, and much less snow.
In all, 82 million Americans will get at least an inch of snow, 47 million more than 6 inches, and 22 million Americans more than a foot, Ryan Maue at WeatherBell Analytics said Friday.
Fortunately, temperatures will be just above freezing after the storm passes in most places, and there's no second storm lurking behind this one, making for a slow and steady melt and less likelihood of more ice and floods, Peterson said.
As food and supplies vanished from store shelves Friday, states of emergency were declared, lawmakers went home, and schools, government offices and transit systems closed early around the region. Thousands of flights were canceled, sporting events were called off, bands postponed concerts and NASCAR delayed its Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Broadway's shows were still going on in New York, but as snow fell in Atlanta, people there were urged to stay home all weekend, rather than risk a repeat of the city's 2014 "icepocalypse," when a relatively mild winter storm caused days of commuter chaos.
Travel was already impossible across a wide swath of the Ohio River valley. Nashville, Tennessee, was gridlocked by accidents. Several drivers died on icy roads in North Carolina. In Washington, Baltimore, and Delaware, archdioceses pre-emptively excused Catholics from showing up for Sunday Mass.
Coastal flooding and the loss of beaches from high surf were major worries from Delaware north to Long Island. New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie canceled presidential campaign events in New Hampshire, which should be spared from the storm. "I'm sorry, NH but I gotta go home - we got snow coming," Christie wrote on Twitter.
In Washington, the federal government closed its offices at noon, and all mass transit was shutting down through Sunday. President Barack Obama, hunkering down at the White House, was one of many who stayed home. Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina addressed anti-abortion activists at the annual March for Life as the storm closed in.
"I would come here if it were thunderstorming," said Kristlyn Whitlock, 20, who came from Steubenville, Ohio, wearing four layers of pants and five layers of tops to stay warm.
In downtown Baltimore, social worker Sean Augustus stocked up on flashlights and water, but said his city comes together when disasters strike.
"This is when you'll see Baltimore city in a different light," Augustus said. "You'll see neighbors coming together to help each other. That's the side of Baltimore people rarely see."
A similar spirit was evident in Annapolis, where 350 Navy midshipmen signed up to shovel people out.
More than 6,000 flights were canceled Friday and Saturday - about 13 percent of the airlines' schedules, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. They hope to be fully back in business by Sunday afternoon.
One of the unlucky travelers stranded by the storm was Jennifer Bremer of Raleigh, North Carolina. Bremer flew into Chicago on Thursday morning, carrying only a briefcase, for what she thought would be less than a day of meetings. Her flight home was canceled Thursday night, and then again Friday.
"I have my computer, my phone and a really good book, but no clothing," Bremer said as she eyed flight boards at O'Hare International Airport. "I have a travel agent right now trying to get creative. I'm waiting on a phone call from her. ... I'm trying to get somewhere near the East Coast where I can drive in tonight or early tomorrow morning."
Thousands of track workers, power company employees, road crew members, firefighters, police, National Guardsmen and others mobilized to help out over the long weekend.
"For our region, this is good timing," said Jeffrey Knueppel, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which is suspending almost all service around Philadelphia Saturday. "Saturday is the day to stay home and Sunday will give us a chance to really clean things up."
Borenstein reported from Kensington, Maryland. Associated Press writers Juliet Linderman in Baltimore; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; and AP Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.

Blizzard dumping snow in South; DC mayor says 'hunker down' http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160122/ARTICLE/160129841 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160122/ARTICLE/160129841 Fri, 22 Jan 2016 11:27:56 -0500 By BEN NUCKOLS and SETH BORENSTEIN By By BEN NUCKOLS and SETH BORENSTEIN Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Shoppers raided grocery and hardware stores, bishops excused Catholics from Sunday Mass and the nation's capital was shutting down Friday, just ahead of a gnarly blizzard that will blanket much of the Eastern United States this weekend.

Conditions quickly became treacherous as the first heavy flakes fell from Tennessee through Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains, aiming straight for Washington. Cars got stuck on icy, snow-covered roads and people lost power as far south as Georgia.

The good news, of a sort: Meterologists appear to have gotten this storm right, as predictions have converged, making it highly probable at this point that the worst of the blizzards will be focused on the Washington area. The National Weather Service said Friday that this could be one of the top three storms in the capital's history.

Snowfall as heavy as 1 to 3 inches an hour could last for 24 hours or more in some areas, said meteorologist Paul Kocin with the National Weather Service. That puts estimates at more than 2 feet for Washington, up to 18 inches for Philadelphia and 10 inches or more in New York City. Even in Atlanta, people headed home early to avoid some light snow.

All the ingredients have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, with Washington squarely in the bulls-eye, forecasters said. The winds initially picked up warm water from the Gulf of Mexico, then gained much more moisture from the warmer-than-usual Gulf Stream off the East Coast.

Kocin said it recalls "Snowmageddon," the first of two storms that "wiped out" Washington in 2010 and dumped up to 30 inches of snow in places. This storm could have similar snowfall, but the weekend timing and days of warning could help limit deaths and damage. Also, there don't appear to be more storms lined up behind this one.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser asked residents to "hunker down" and "shelter in place" until the storm has passed, probably sometime Sunday. The snow was expected to start falling on the capital between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., a little earlier than previously forecast.

"The forecast does not show any evidence of lightening up," she said, stressing the "life and death implications."

People awoke to snow and ice Friday as the storm moved eastward.

At sunrise in Memphis, Tennessee, nurse Danielle Aldridge couldn't find her ice scraper, so she used a plastic kitchen cutting board to clear her windshield. She had to get to work at a family practice clinic that was open on Friday, unlike government offices and many other private businesses.

"Sick people will come in today," she said. "That's part of the deal. Like the post office - rain or shine or sleet or snow, I will take care of my patients."

In the mountains of Craigsville, West Virginia, people bought the usual kerosene heaters, propane tanks and gas cans, but also a special item: a rake that helps homeowners get snow off their roofs.

"It's going to be bad, probably," said Missy Keaton, cashier and office secretary at the town's hardware store, called Hardware, That's Us. But she said many people are prepared after snow from Superstorm Sandy caused numerous roof collapses - at stores, homes and a hardware plant - in nearby Summersville in 2012.

At a supermarket in Baltimore, Sharon Brewington stocked her cart with ready-to-eat snacks, bread, milk and cold cuts. In 2010, she and her daughter were stuck at home with nothing but noodles and water.

"I'm not going to make that mistake again," she said.

As food and supplies vanished from store shelves, five states and the District of Columbia declared states of emergency ahead of the slow-moving system. Schools and government offices closed pre-emptively. Thousands of flights were canceled. College basketball games and concerts were postponed.

The snowfall could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage and paralyze the Eastern third of the nation, weather service director Louis Uccellini said.

"It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people," Uccellini said at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would hunker down at the White House.

The federal government was closing its offices at noon Friday, and the capital's subway system was shutting down from late Friday through Sunday. Many people in the region stayed home from work, and ridership on the rails was down by half, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

In Washington, Baltimore, and Delaware, archdioceses reminded people that dangerous travel conditions are a legitimate excuse to avoid showing up for Sunday Mass, and watch a ceremony on television instead.

New York City, along with Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island, are forecast to be just inside the storm's sharp northern edge. Boston will probably get off easy this time, forecasters said.

Uccellini said it won't be quite as bad as Superstorm Sandy, but people should expect high winds, a storm surge and inland flooding from Delaware to New York.

Train service could be disrupted by frozen switches, the loss of third-rail electric power or trees falling on wires. About 1,000 track workers will be deployed to keep New York's subway system moving, and 79 trains will have "scraper shoes" to reduce icing on rails, the Metropolitan Transit Authority said.

All major airlines have issued waivers for the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook onto earlier or later flights to avoid the storms. More than 2,400 flights were canceled in the U.S. Friday, and another 2,400 Saturday, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. The bulk of Friday's cancellations were in Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; Saturday's cancelations center on Philadelphia, Washington, and - to a lesser extent - New York. By Sunday afternoon, airlines hope to be back to full schedule to handle business travelers heading out for the week.

One major event in Washington was still on: the March for Life, an annual anti-abortion rally that's usually one of the largest events on the National Mall. It will be held Friday, the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

The U.S. Capitol Police said sledding on Capitol Hill - which only recently became legal after an act of Congress - would be welcome for the first time in decades, as long as conditions are safe.

While some people and businesses worried about the snow, at least one industry could see a potential boon: ski resorts. Many got a late start on the season because of record high temperatures in December.

"There is never too much snow on the slopes," said Joe Stevens, spokesman for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.

Borenstein reported from College Park, Maryland. Associated Press writers Juliet Linderman in Baltimore; Jessica Gresko in Washington; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; and AP Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.

High court could give Obama his final chance on immigration http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160120/ARTICLE/160129984 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160120/ARTICLE/160129984 Wed, 20 Jan 2016 06:33:15 -0500 By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY and JOSH LEDERMAN The Associated Press By By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY and JOSH LEDERMAN The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) – After seven years, 2 million-plus deportations, two executive actions and 720,000 “Dreamers,” the bottom line on President Barack Obama’s immigration record still remains an open question for many immigrants and their advocates.

In the end, the Supreme Court may fill in the blank.

By agreeing to hear a challenge to Obama’s immigration plan, the court on Tuesday raised hopes that Obama may have one last chance to make good on an unfulfilled promise to millions of immigrants, many of whom feel abandoned by his administration’s recent deportation raids.

If the court sides with Obama, ruling that he has the authority to unilaterally shield up to 5 million immigrants from deportation, Obama would claim a sizable last win on an issue that has dogged him for years. His administration would, however, face another challenge – implementing a complex program in a matter of month as Republicans vow to reverse it just as quickly.

If the court rules against Obama, he could spend his last months in office making headlines for deporting people, rather than shielding them from deportation, as he’d planned.

At issue are Obama’s actions to allow parents of U.S. citizens to stay in the country, along with an expansion of Obama’s earlier program protecting people brought to the U.S. illegally as children – known as Dreamers. Lower courts have put those programs on hold amid claims Obama exceeded his authority, but the Supreme Court agreed to have the final word.

Advocates said they see the pivot point as a reflection of the seesaw nature of Obama’s record on the issue. Despite his efforts to pass immigration legislation and use his executive power to protect some immigrants, his broader deportation policy led activists to label him the “deporter-in-chief” and left wounds some say won’t be healed.

Most recently, advocates were incensed by deportation raids targeting 121 Central American immigrants, arguing the raids sowed fear and skepticism in a community that could make it harder for advocates and the administration to persuade people to come forward later.

Angela Maria Kelley, an immigration expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, likened Obama’s policies to a “high school romance: One minute you’re in love, the next you’re being dumped.

“It does feel like it can take on a bipolar presence in the community,” Kelley said.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Obama’s executive action by late June. That would leave Obama with barely half a year to get the program up and running before his presidency ends. Most of the Republicans running to replace Obama have already vowed to tear up the program if elected.

Obama’s expanded program for people brought here as children was hours away from being launched last year when a judge put it on hold, so ostensibly, the administration could flick the switch on almost overnight with little additional preparation.

But the much larger program for parents of U.S. citizens wasn’t nearly as far along when the court shut it down.

Ahead of the injunction, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had secured office space in Arlington, Virginia, for a new processing center, with plans to hire about 1,000 people to screen applications. But the administration would have to hire and train those workers, finalize the forms and application process, and disseminate that information to applicants.

Administration officials predicted that could take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. By comparison, it took 60 days to launch the initial program covering people brought here as children.

“We’re certainly interested in moving forward with implementing these executive actions as expeditiously as possible,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Another hold-up could come from applicants, who would need to pull together application fees and documents proving they’ve been in the country for years. How quickly the government could process applications is another question.

In the first six months of Obama’s earlier program for people brought here as children, 200,000 were approved out of roughly 423,000 applications.

Working against the president is deep uncertainty about what happens to those who apply for protection if a Republican who opposes Obama’s actions wins the White House. New applications would almost certainly be halted, but immigration advocates predicted the next president would find it harder to retract work permits from those approved before Obama leaves office.

“There’s a real question right now of whether people are safe from deportation, not the least because in the last few weeks we’ve seen increased raids by the president,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center. “But folks are so eager to have the protections from family separation, if the chance does present itself, I would anticipate a tremendous outpouring of interest.”

Reach Kathleen Hennessey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/khennessey and Josh Lederman at https://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Confederate flag's removal turns King Day into celebration http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160118/ARTICLE/160119526 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160118/ARTICLE/160119526 Mon, 18 Jan 2016 08:08:52 -0500 By JEFFREY COLLINS By By JEFFREY COLLINS Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Civic leaders, activists, artists and others are celebrating, marching and paying homage Monday to Martin Luther King Jr., marking the 30th anniversary of the federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.

In South Carolina, civil rights leaders planned a march to their state capitol as in past years when their rally highlighted calls to remove the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds.
The King Day at the Dome gathering began in 2000 with that call. Last July, organizers got their wish as South Carolina swiftly removed the flag which had flown at the capitol for more than 50 years after what police said was a racially motivated shooting that claimed nine lives at a church in Charleston.
The state NAACP said there is still more work to do to honor King and the theme of this year's rally is "education equity," with speakers calling for South Carolina to spend more money to help students in poorer, more rural school districts, which frequently have a majority of black students.
And this year's event will also include appearances by all three main Democratic presidential candidates - Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.
The rally in Columbia is one of many planned nationwide recalling the legacy of King, who was assassinated in 1968.
In the nation's capital, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama planned to take part in a community service program in King's honor. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was to be the keynote speaker at a National Action Network King Day Awards program and FBI Director James Comey planned to lead a government wreath-laying service at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington.
Elsewhere, the King Center in Atlanta was set to celebrate the holiday with a remembrance ceremony at Ebenezer Baptist Church. That commemoration caps more than a week of events meant to celebrate the slain civil rights icon's legacy under the theme: "Remember! Celebrate! Act! King's Legacy of Freedom for Our World."
"What most people around the world want, whatever nation they live in, is the freedom to participate in government, the freedom to prosper in life and the freedom to peacefully coexist," said King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King.
The theme of freedom is especially meaningful this year, she said, because it is the 50th anniversary of her father's trip to Chicago to highlight the need for open and fair housing. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in January 1966 had announced plans for the Chicago Freedom Movement. In a nod to that legacy, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro was set to speak at Monday's service.
King's legacy will also be celebrated in New York at the state Capitol complex. A free program at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Monday was to feature musical and theatrical tributes, including performances by Grammy-winning gospel singer Dorinda Clark-Cole and blues guitarist Guy Davis.
And in Minneapolis, activists with the group Black Lives Matter planned to march onto a Mississippi River bridge that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul during a Martin Luther King Day rally.
The Star Tribune reports that the activists would rally for the release of a video of the November fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark by a Minneapolis police officer. In St. Paul, protesters want the case of Marcus Golden reopened. Golden was fatally shot by St. Paul police early last year. A grand jury declined to indict the officers involved in that shooting.

Tennessee Powerball winners: No big changes to lives http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160116/GZ01/160119580 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160116/GZ01/160119580 Sat, 16 Jan 2016 09:27:20 -0500 By ERIK SCHELZIG and ADRIAN SAINZ By By ERIK SCHELZIG and ADRIAN SAINZ Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The small-town Tennessee couple that bought one of three magic tickets splitting the world-record $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot says they don't plan to quit their jobs or buy a new house.

Their daughter, however, wants a horse.
After appearing on national television, John Robinson and wife Lisa went to the Tennessee lottery headquarters in Nashville on Friday to have their winning ticket verified by lottery officials. The couple's lump sum payout is about $327 million after buying the ticket for Wednesday night's drawing at a grocery store in their west Tennessee hometown of Munford, population 6,000. Two other winning tickets were bought in California and Florida.
At a news conference Friday, the Robinsons said they won't stop working and won't make any wild purchases. They'll pay off their mortgage and their daughter's student loans, but have no desire to move from their gray, one-story house in a close-knit community into a luxurious compound somewhere.
Lisa works at a dermatologist's office. John is a warehouse supervisor. Both plan to return to work Monday, they said. Friends and neighbors say the Robinsons are a hard-working, responsible family with the ability to humbly deal with their new fortune.
"That's what we've done all our lives, is work," John Robinson said. "You just can't sit down and lay down and not do nothing anymore. Because how long are you going to last? We do want to enjoy a little bit of our earnings, and maybe invest a little bit of it so our son and daughter will have it and they'll never need anything again."
No one has produced the other winning tickets, which overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on all six numbers at a Publix supermarket in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, California.
In California, any winnings not claimed within a year automatically go to the state's schools. Florida gives winners six months to come forward before transferring 80 percent of unclaimed prizes to an educational trust fund, and 20 percent into a pool for future lottery prizes.
Robinson said he reached out to his brother for help finding lawyers and financial planners before deciding to take the winnings in a single lump sum of nearly $328 million, rather than let the lottery invest the prize and pay him 30 annual installments totaling an estimated $533 million.
Why pass up on a certain income totaling more than $200 million?
"We're going to take the lump sum, because we're not guaranteed tomorrow," Robinson said. "We just wanted a little piece of the pie. Now we're real grateful we got the big piece of the pie."
The Robinsons said they have no plans to leave Munford, the town about 25 miles north of Memphis where they both went to high school.
Tennessee Lottery executive Rebecca Hargrove said the couple would get a "small check today for a few million," and collect the full lump sum in about 10 business days.
Robinson said earlier Friday that they would help certain friends, give to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and donate to their church.
"I'm a firm believer in tithing to my church," Robinson said in an appearance on NBC's "Today" show.
The couple has a son, Adam, who works as an electrician, and a daughter, Tiffany, who lives nearby in her late grandparents' home.
Tiffany said she also wants a horse.
"My first thought was, I've always wanted a horse," she said. "I get a horse now. My dad always said, "When I win the lottery."'
Robinson carried the precious slip of paper to New York City and back before showing up at Tennessee's lottery headquarters. Their lawyer went with the family, as did their rescue dog, Abby, who snoozed through most of the excitement.
Lawyers who have represented other winners advise against going public until they have made plans with experts in tax law, financial planning, privacy, security and other safeguards to protect themselves and their winnings.
The Robinsons did ask for privacy Friday.
Munford's mayor, Dwayne Cole, had wished openly Thursday for an investment in the town, whose annual budget is $3.67 million. He said Munford's needs include fire department equipment, an indoor athletic facility for local schools and a community gymnasium.
On Friday, Cole told the AP that they are not the kind to squander their money.
"They're small-town people who appreciate community, appreciate family values. They appreciate hard work. They are responsible. They've always lived within their means," said Cole, who owns an auto parts store in town.
"They have to understand, though, this is a big deal. This is not just a big deal for Munford. This is a big deal nationwide and worldwide. They understand that, I think. I hope they do," Cole added. "I believe they can deal with it. It may be totally overwhelming."
Robinson said he bought the winning ticket at his wife's request at the family-owned Naifeh's grocery on his way home from work Wednesday night, then went to sleep. His wife stayed up to watch the drawing, and started "hollering and screaming through the hallway saying, `You need to check these numbers. You need to check these numbers,"' he said.
He did, four times, then thought: "Well, I'll believe it when the news comes on in the morning."
As for buying a bigger, more resplendent house, it appears to come down to practicality for John Robinson.
"Big houses are nice," he said, "But also you gotta clean `em."

$1.6 billion Powerball jackpot goes to 3 winners in 3 states http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160114/GZ01/160119719 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160114/GZ01/160119719 Thu, 14 Jan 2016 06:36:25 -0500 By ANDREW DALTON The Associated Press By By ANDREW DALTON The Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) - An eye-popping and unprecedented Powerball jackpot whose rise to $1.6 billion became a national fascination will be split three ways.

The winners' identities remain a mystery, but they bought their tickets in Florida, Tennessee and a Los Angeles suburb where even lottery losers were celebrating Thursday that such heady riches were won in their modest city.

The winners of the world-record jackpot overcame odds of 1 in 292.2 million to land on the numbers drawn Wednesday night, 4-8-19-27-34 and Powerball 10. They can take the winnings in annual payments spread over decades or a smaller amount in a lump sum.

The California ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven in Chino Hills, California, lottery spokesman Alex Traverso told The Associated Press. The winning ticket in Tennessee was sold in Munford, north of Memphis, according to a news release from lottery officials in that state.

The California store and its surrounding strip mall immediately became a popular gathering spot in the usually quiet suburb of 75,000 people. Hundreds of people, from news crews to gawkers, crowded the store and spilled into its parking lot.

They cheered and mugged for TV cameras as if it were New Year's Eve or a sporting event. Many chanted, "Chino Hills! Chino Hills!" in celebration of the city.

"It's history. We're all so excited for our city," Rita Talwar, 52, who has lived in Chino Hills for 30 years, told the local newspaper, the San Bernardino Sun.

Some took selfies with the store clerk on duty, who became an instant celebrity and may well have been the man who sold the ticket after being on duty for much of the run-up to Wednesday night's drawing.

"I'm very proud that the ticket was sold here," the clerk, M. Faroqui, told the Sun. "I'm very happy. This is very exciting."

The 7-Eleven will get a $1 million bonus for selling the winning ticket, Traverso said.

No details were immediately available about the Florida winner.

The estimated jackpot amounts had risen steadily since Nov. 4, when it was reset at $40 million. Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief has said this Powerball offered "absolutely" the world's biggest jackpot.

Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

But residents in the six states that don't participate found ways to get their hands on tickets. Some of the biggest Powerball sales have come from cities bordering states that don't sell the tickets, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. The association oversees the Powerball Lottery, but management rotates annually among member states.

State of the Union: Follow along here http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160112/ARTICLE/160119817 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160112/ARTICLE/160119817 Tue, 12 Jan 2016 20:50:18 -0500 By NANCY BENAC By By NANCY BENAC Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House is promising a nontraditional address for President Barack Obama's final State of the Union. But, no, don't look for him to slow-jam Tuesday's speech or rap it.

Nontraditional is more likely to simply mean a shorter list of policy proposals and more attention to the president's broader vision for the country.
What else is there to watch for? Plenty. The president's speech promises all sorts of election-year dynamics, a new face, an empty chair and a dollop of nostalgia.
Some things to watch:
With time running out on his presidency, Obama knows it would be pointless to propose lots of new initiatives. Instead, look to see what sort of future the president sketches for the country well beyond his remaining year in office. Bill Clinton, in his 2000 valedictory, harked back to Theodore Roosevelt's talk of a "growing nation with a future that takes the long look ahead."
Obama doesn't want to emphasize his lame duck status, so he's likely to go light on the nostalgia in his last State of the Union. But, with a rare audience of tens of millions of Americans, this is a prime opportunity for the president to begin shaping a summarizing vision of his presidency before people tune him out to focus on the 2016 campaign. How does he balance nostalgia with the speech's forward-looking elements?
The Republican presidential candidates are painting a grim portrait of America, one downtrodden economically, culturally divided, cowed by terrorists – that has lost its standing in the world. Obama is delivering his address earlier than usual this year to put his own, rosier stamp on things before the primary season is in full swing. How does he project a more optimistic view of America while still acknowledging the very real anxieties and worries that Republicans are tapping into? And will he call out the GOP candidates for divisive rhetoric? Don't expect him to scold the candidates directly, but he'll still make his displeasure clear.
The audience for Obama's address will include senators itching to replace him – and some of them are even running. Expect the cameras to pan to the likes of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermonter seeking the Democratic nomination. They may well have been giving some thought to their body language: when to clap, when to sit on their hands, when to scowl, when to smile. It also will be notable to take stock of who's not there. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for one, will be holding his own "State of Our Union" town hall in New Hampshire.
A big part of the State of the Union tableau is the guests whom the White House chooses to seat in the first lady's box and to highlight in the president's speech. This year, the White House hopes to give oomph to its push for tighter regulation of guns by leaving one seat in the first lady's box empty, to represent the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice. Members of Congress will be sending their own messages through their invited guests, including a 9-year-old Syrian refugee, a Planned Parenthood official and a Muslim New York City police lieutenant. Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to license same-sex marriages, planned to be there, too, but didn't say who invited her.
Look for a new face behind Obama: House Speaker Paul Ryan, who replaced John Boehner. Ryan, who was Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012, will be seated next to Joe Biden, who got the veep job instead. Boehner was typically stone-faced during Obama's addresses. What will we see from Ryan, who's pledging to go on offense against Obama this year? His office popped out a "Get to Know Paul Ryan" video Tuesday just for the occasion.
Every year, Obama's speechwriters vow to keep the address tight – and every year things just don't quite work out that way. This year really will be different, the White House promises. The number to beat is 5,902 words: That was the length of Obama's first – and shortest – State of the Union, which ran about 52 minutes. His longest State of the Union ran about 69 minutes in 2010, still well-short of former President Bill Clinton's 89-minute opus in 2000.
Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac

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WV among Ringling elephants' last stops before retirement http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160111/GZ01/160119917 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160111/GZ01/160119917 Mon, 11 Jan 2016 11:51:48 -0500 Elaina Sauber By Elaina Sauber Charleston will be one of the last cities where Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey features its famous elephant acts.

The touring circus show will perform eight shows from April 21 to 24 at the Charleston Civic Center with its Asian elephants before their final acts in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Providence, Rhode Island, the following week. Elephants will be completely phased out of the circus' performances in May - a year and a half earlier than expected.

The circus' parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced last year that it would retire the elephants by 2018 and relocate them to the company's Center for Elephant Conservation, in central Florida. On Monday, it was reported that the circus will end all elephant acts four months from now.

Feld Entertainment spokesman Stephen Payne said that after analyzing the space, pasture and water supply of the 200-acre conservation center, "we came to the conclusion that we could do this sooner than 2018." The center currently holds 29 elephants.

A contributing factor in the company's decision last year stemmed from increased public scrutiny of circus elephant acts. Major cities, such as Los Angeles, have prohibited the use of bullhooks, a long hooked stick used to train elephants.

Payne said the company found such ordinances to be "completely unnecessary . . . but we couldn't leave the elephants at the city limits."

Despite some opposition to using circus elephants, Payne contended that the practice has never affected the shows' ticket sales, nor does he believe that retiring them will cause a decrease.

"[The circus] is 145 years old," he said, "and it's survived that long."

The company also is planning new additions to its circus, to make up for the elephants' absence. Payne wouldn't give details on what those changes would include.

Civic Center General Manager John Robertson said Monday that the circus act has become "a staple in our annual list of events," and it's been coming to Charleston since before he began working at the Civic Center 38 years ago, he added.

Despite the last hurrah for the circus' largest performers, Robertson said he expects that Ringling will still return to the city in coming years.

"That's a very creative organization and [has] lots of attractions beyond elephants," Robertson said, "I'm sure they'll come up with dynamic things to fill in the gaps."

The multiple performances during the circus' annual visit bring in roughly 40,000 people, he said, including many who travel from out of state to see the "The Greatest Show on Earth."

But even Charleston has experienced protests by some who find the use of circus elephants inhumane. Over the past few years, Robertson said, there have been "small expressions of protests or picketing at some of the events."

As it stands now, the Pachyderm Picnic, hosted by Charleston Town Center mall, will be held one last time while the circus is in town, said Lisa McCracken, the Town Center's marketing director. The event shuts down Clendenin Street to accommodate onlookers who can watch the elephants munch on fruits, bread and vegetables in between shows.

Reach Elaina Sauber at elaina.sauber@wvgazettemail, 304-348-3051 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.

No Powerball winner, so jackpot may grow to $1.3 billion http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160110/ARTICLE/160119960 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160110/ARTICLE/160119960 Sun, 10 Jan 2016 09:03:48 -0500 By MARGERY BECK The Associated Press By By MARGERY BECK The Associated Press No ticket matched all six Powerball numbers following the drawing for a record jackpot of nearly $950 million, lottery officials said early Sunday, boosting the expected payout for the next drawing to a whopping $1.3 billion.

The winning numbers – disclosed live on television and online Saturday night – were 16-19-32-34-57 and the Powerball number 13. All six numbers must be correct to win, although the first five can be in any order. The odds to win the largest lottery prize in U.S. history were one in 292.2 million.

Officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, said they expected about 75 percent of the possible number combinations would have been bought for Saturday night's drawing.

Since Nov. 4, the Powerball jackpot has grown from its $40 million starting point as no one has won the jackpot. Such a huge jackpot was just what officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, hoped for last fall when they changed the odds of matching all the Powerball numbers, from about one in 175 million to one in 292.2 million. By making it harder to win a jackpot, the tougher odds made the ever-larger prizes inevitable.

The U.S. saw sales of $277 million on Friday alone and more than $400 million were expected Saturday, according to Gary Grief, the executive director of the Texas Lottery.

The record jackpot lured an unprecedented frenzy of purchases. Anndrea Smith, 30, said Saturday that she already had spent more than she usually does on Powerball tickets.

"I bought four yesterday, and I usually never buy any," said Smith, manager of Bucky's gas station and convenience store in Omaha, Nebraska. She's not alone, saying the store sold "about $5,000 worth of tickets yesterday. Usually on a Friday, we might sell $1,200 worth."

Powerball is played in 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The next Powerball drawing is Wednesday.

Huntington woman to sit with Michelle Obama at State of the Union http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160110/GZ01/160119969 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160110/GZ01/160119969 Sun, 10 Jan 2016 00:01:00 -0500 David Gutman By David Gutman A Huntington woman whose son is in a West Virginia state prison getting treatment for opioid abuse will attend the State of the Union address in Washington, as a guest of President Barack Obama.

Cary Dixon, who spoke at the opioid abuse forum that Obama hosted in Charleston in October, will sit with first lady Michelle Obama as the president delivers his final State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Dixon's son is in a residential substance abuse treatment program in a state prison, where he is serving time for drug-related crimes. He is eligible for parole in September.

Sitting in the president's box at the State of the Union is a very select honor, and guests are almost always mentioned in the president's speech.

The guests, the White House wrote last year, "exemplify the themes and ideals that the president lays out in his address."

Last year there were only four guests in Obama's box, all of whom were mentioned in the speech. Obama had eight guests in 2014, the most any president has had going back to Reagan.

This year's guests, the White House said, personify the president's time in office and represent compassion, innovation and courage.

Obama came to West Virginia, the state that leads the country in drug overdose deaths, to discuss the opioid crisis.

At the forum in Charleston, Dixon told the president about how her son's addiction had affected her entire family.

She talked about shock at hearing of a first DUI, fear at a first trip to jail and embarrassment when family from out of town can't interact with a loved one under the influence of drugs.

"We dread the next phone call, we can't sleep because we haven't received a phone call," she said. "We're relieved when our loved ones acknowledge that they have a serious problem and understand that they need help. And then we're devastated when we help them seek treatment only to find out that there is a month-long waiting list, or that there's no insurance coverage, or that there's a big requirement for money up front for treatment."

A visibly moved Obama told Dixon that her thoughts reminded him of his own daughters and gave her a hug after the event.

"It's like having your heart walking around outside your body," he said of parenting. "All you care about is making sure they're OK, but they're so vulnerable."

On Friday, Dixon said that she was honored and humbled to be invited to the Capitol for the once-a-year speech.

She said she was hoping to focus not on her personal story, but on addiction in general.

"As a community and as a nation we haven't known what to do with this disease," she said. "Addiction is a disease, people don't want to become addicted to drugs. These are real people, they're not bad people, they are sick people."

She said she was grateful for the national attention focused on the issue.

When Obama was in Charleston he announced new steps intended both to help stem the flow of prescription painkillers and to make it easier for people fighting addiction to find treatment.

Those steps included asking federal agencies to provide training on properly prescribing opioids to doctors who work for the federal government and asking agencies to review their health insurance plans to ensure there are no barriers to addiction treatment.

The White House also frequently points out that the Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to cover substance-abuse treatment. But just because treatment is required to be covered does not mean it is available.

"We need funding, we need resources for treatment," Dixon said on Friday. "We need resources for prevention."

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.

Some key numbers about the giant Powerball drawing http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160109/GZ01/160109565 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160109/GZ01/160109565 Sat, 9 Jan 2016 08:15:10 -0500 By The Associated Press By By The Associated Press Enthusiastic ticket-buyers have pushed the record Powerball jackpot to $800 million for Saturday night's drawing. Ticket sales on Thursday were double the previous record for that day, said Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery. During one hour around midday Friday, sales were $13.2 million, or $219,277 per minute.

Here's a rundown of some key figures - if not the winning numbers - connected to the drawing.
Could it hit $1 billion? Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery, says officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association raised the estimated jackpot for Saturday night's drawing again because of strong sales - but that the $800 million prize could rise again before Saturday's drawing.
To put it gently, not good. The odds are one in 292.2 million. Realistically, you're really, really, really unlikely to win. One hopeful thought: Scott A. Norris, an assistant professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University, says your tiny odds improve a bit if you let the computer pick your numbers rather than choosing yourself.
There are 292.2 million possible combinations of the five white balls and red Powerball. That's where the one in 292.2 million odds comes from, and they stay the same regardless of how big the jackpot grows or how many people buy tickets.
Once you beat the astronomical odds and win, you'll get to choose between being paid $800 million through annual payments over 29 years or opting for $496 million in cash. Those figures are before federal and state taxes, which will eat up roughly half of the cash-option prize. What's your best bet? Olivia S. Mitchell, a professor of insurance and risk management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says a safe option to avoid the risk of overspending or an investment mishap would be to take the annuity.
The jackpot started at $40 million on Nov. 4 and has been growing since then because there have been no big winners for the twice-weekly jackpots. Because the payout is based on sales, the prize has grown more quickly as people rush to buy tickets. More ticket sales also make it more likely there will be a winner, as all the extra tickets mean more number combinations are covered.
Powerball is played in 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
A regular ticket costs $2 - about the same as a gallon of gas. Powerball sales must stop by 10 p.m. EST on Saturday, but states can cut off sales earlier.
10:59 p.m. EST on Saturday.

Needle exchange leaders cheer relaxed federal funding ban http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160108/GZ01/160109608 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160108/GZ01/160109608 Fri, 8 Jan 2016 15:22:50 -0500 By Rick Callahan Associated Press By By Rick Callahan Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Advocates are praising Congress' recent softening of a longtime ban on federal dollars going to needle exchanges amid growing intravenous drug abuse that's spreading hepatitis and HIV in many states.

The new rules, which were in the spending bill signed last month by President Barack Obama, say that federal money still can't go to buying clean needles but can be used for other program costs in communities deemed "at risk" for significant increases in hepatitis C or an HIV outbreak.

Advocates say exchanges, which provide IV drug users with clean needles and collect used ones to reduce needle-sharing that spreads diseases among users, also help get some users into drug-treatment programs.

The change is significant, because it was backed by several Republicans who previously opposed federal funding. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican who heads the House Appropriations Committee, spearheaded the change because he and others realized something needed to be done to address the growing outbreaks and mounting medical costs, Rogers' spokeswoman Danielle Smoot said.

"We can't ignore the growing crisis. It's happening and we've got to make changes, and hopefully this will help save lives," she said.

Rogers' state is experiencing hepatitis C outbreaks and has the nation's highest rate of acute hepatitis C. To the north of Kentucky's biggest city, Louisville, southeast Indiana saw a record HIV outbreak fueled largely by people abusing a prescription painkiller.

There were about 200 needle-exchange programs in place in 33 U.S. states in 2014, according to The Foundation for AIDS Research.

The softened federal ban should help many of those exchanges pay employees' salaries, purchase vans to deliver clean needles to users and rent office space, said Daniel Raymond, policy director for the New York-based Harm Reduction Coalition, which provides training and technical assistance for needle exchanges across the nation.

"It's definitely a victory and I think it's a workable compromise," he said.

While the change will eventually bring millions of federal dollars into the needle exchanges, the exact amount and the number of programs won't be known for a year or more, said William McColl, director of health policy with the Washington-based advocacy group AIDS United.

The move is especially important for cash-strapped rural areas of states like Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio - all of which are dealing with outbreaks tied to heroin addiction and abuse of other opioids.

"They're the ones who have been struggling and the federal ban has been a huge barrier," Raymond said.

Four Appalachian states - Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia - saw the rate of hepatitis C more than tripled between 2006 and 2012, the Centers for Disease Control said in a report released last year, and researchers have warned an HIV epidemic would likely follow if nothing is done.

That type of epidemic came to rural southeastern Indiana, where more than 180 people have tested positive for HIV. Nearly all of those cases have been in Scott County about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, in an outbreak driven largely by needle-sharing among people injecting a liquefied form of the prescription painkiller Opana.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a conservative Republican who had long opposed needle exchanges as part of drug-control efforts, signed a new law last spring that gave Indiana's health commissioner authority to approve local needle exchange programs.

To date, exchanges have been approved for four Indiana counties. More than 20 other Indiana counties are planning to seek state approval for exchanges of their own and Congress' move could give some of Indiana's exchanges a boost, said Beth Meyerson, co-director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention at Indiana University.

"For us in Indiana, and likely everywhere else, this is huge news because it allows our programs to apply for funding once it becomes available," she said.

In Kentucky, the Legislature passed a law last year that allowed local communities to set up needle exchange programs, but only the state's two largest cities, Louisville and Lexington, have so far.

Smaller counties in eastern Kentucky, which has been devastated by prescription drug abuse, have hesitated because of funding barriers and moral objections; conservatives have long believed that needle exchanges enable drug abuse.

Russ Read, founder of the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, hopes Congress' shift might send a message to local politicians and health officials.

"There's just so much fear in some of these counties," he said. "Now that the feds are on board, I think that'll maybe loosen up the purse strings, and loosen up the attitudes."

Powerball soars to $800 million as states see strong sales http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160108/GZ01/160109610 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160108/GZ01/160109610 Fri, 8 Jan 2016 12:34:28 -0500 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The record Powerball jackpot just got bigger, climbing to $800 million as sales soared in the days leading up to the drawing.

Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery, says officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association on Friday raised the estimated jackpot for Saturday night's drawing from $700 million because of strong sales.

Grief says Powerball sales on Thursday were double the previous record for that day and that it's possible the estimated jackpot could rise again before the drawing.

A winner would have the option of being paid $800 million through annual payments over 29 years or opting for $496 million in cash.

Powerball is played in 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

All 17 miners trapped in New York salt mine are rescued http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160107/GZ01/160109685 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160107/GZ01/160109685 Thu, 7 Jan 2016 10:35:44 -0500 By Michael Hill Associated Press By By Michael Hill Associated Press LANSING, N.Y. (AP) - Seventeen miners trapped in one of the world's deepest salt mines were rescued Thursday morning, ending a 10-hour ordeal that began when their elevator broke down 900 feet underground.

The workers were descending to the floor of the 2,300-foot-deep Cayuga Salt Mine - nearly deep enough to fit two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other - to start their shift when the elevator malfunctioned at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, said Mark Klein, a spokesman for mine owner Cargill Inc.

With temperatures in the elevator shaft in the teens - the same as the surface - the miners were cold but otherwise unharmed, said Shawn Wilczynski, the mine manager.

"Their spirits are tremendous. I'm inspired by them, to be quite honest with you," Wilczynski said. "The first four that came out of the mine waited until the last two came out."

Emergency workers communicated via radio with the miners, who had blankets, heat packs and other supplies lowered to them.

The rescued workers ranged in age from 20 to 60, and their mining experience ranged from a few months to four decades, Wilczynski said.

A crane hoisted the first four to the surface in a basket around 7 a.m. at the mine in Lansing, about 40 miles outside Syracuse. Another four were rescued about 30 minutes later, and seven more were brought to the surface by 8:30 a.m., Klein said. The last two were rescued a few minutes afterward.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the emergency personnel who carried out the rescue, adding that a team of investigators from several state offices will be looking into what caused the miners to become stranded.

The mine, which Klein said is the deepest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere, produces road salt that is shipped throughout the Northeastern United States. The mine is located on the shore of Cayuga Lake and extends beneath its waters.

Minneapolis-based Cargill bought the mine in 1970 and employs 200 workers there, Klein said. The mine processes about 2 million tons of road salt annually, making it one of the biggest producers in the U.S., Cargill said.

Mining operations will be shut down for the rest of the week as company officials and federal mine safety inspectors investigate the malfunctioning, Klein said.

"We want to take a step back, check things out," he said.

The crane used to rescue the workers had to be brought in by a rigging company in Auburn, 30 miles away.

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a wide swath of upstate New York stretching from the Syracuse area to the western Finger Lakes region is underlain by what's known as the Salina formation, which contains about 3.9 trillion metric tons of rock salt ranging in depth from 500 feet to 4,000 feet. The Cargill mine is the larger of two salt mines operating in the region. The other is American Rock Salt's mine, located 35 miles south of Rochester.

New York is the nation's third-largest producer of rock salt after Louisiana and Texas.

The last serious accident at the mine occurred on the surface in March 2010, when a 150-ton salt bin collapsed, killing a contract truck driver and injuring another man, Klein said. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration later determined a piece of the bin corroded and caused it to give way.

Survey: US progress on health insurance stalled in 2015 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160107/GZ01/160109691 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160107/GZ01/160109691 Thu, 7 Jan 2016 06:50:52 -0500 By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR By By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Going into President Barack Obama's last year in office, progress has stalled on reducing the number of uninsured Americans under his signature health care law, according to a major survey out Thursday.

The share of U.S. adults without health insurance was 11.9 percent in the last three months of 2015, essentially unchanged from the start of the year, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The ongoing survey, based on daily interviews with 500 people, has been used by media, social scientists, and administration officials to track the law's impact.
Release of the latest installment comes after the Republican-led Congress voted to send legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act to Obama's desk. The president is certain to veto it, but opponents say that will only help their strategy of keeping "Obamacare" alive as a political issue in the presidential election.
The sharp drop in the uninsured rate seen in 2014 - the first year of the law's major coverage expansion - now has leveled off, Gallup said in its analysis of the latest findings.
"This validates concerns that similarly large reductions may not be possible in the future because the remaining uninsured are harder to reach or less inclined to become insured," the analysis said. "Future reductions will likely require significant outreach and expanded programs targeting those who have not yet taken advantage."
The survey period included the first two months of the health law's 2016 open enrollment season, which ends Jan. 31. That covered the first big sign-up deadline, which was Dec 15 for those wanting coverage effective at the start of the year.
Gallup-Healthways said it expects results for the first three months of 2016 to show another decline in the uninsured rate. How big remains to be seen.
"A strong open enrollment period would allow the Obama administration to go out on a high note," said Larry Levitt, who follows the health overhaul for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "Weak enrollment could intensify the debate over the Affordable Care Act, particularly as the general election approaches," he said.
"There will continue to be close scrutiny of the uninsured numbers and reports of premium increases for 2017, which will start to trickle out this summer," added Levitt. "I believe the health law has crossed the threshold of sustainability, but its future success depends on growing enrollment."
The uninsured rate for adults stood at 17.1 percent in the last three months of 2013, as the law's major coverage expansion got underway, according to the survey. The drop of 5.2 percentage points by the end of last year translates to nearly 13 million adults gaining coverage.
But 2015 was a lackluster year. According to the survey, the uninsured rate dipped to 11.4 percent in the period from April-June, then edged up again the rest of the year. It was the first such reversal noted by the survey since the law's big coverage expansion began.
The health law has added coverage in two major ways, bringing the nation's uninsured rate to a historic low. Online insurance markets like HealthCare.gov offer taxpayer-subsidized private plans to people who don't have coverage on the job. And states can opt for a Medicaid expansion aimed at low-income adults with no children living at home. That's happened in 30 states, plus Washington, D.C.
Opposition to the law has blocked Medicaid expansion elsewhere. If major states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia were to expand their programs, the uninsured rate would start coming down again. Louisiana and Alabama are considering Medicaid expansion.
Since 2013, the Gallup-Healthways survey has found gains in health insurance coverage among all major demographic groups except seniors, who were already covered by Medicare. The biggest progress has come among low-income people, Hispanics, and African Americans.
The Obama administration had no direct response to the survey findings. Spokesman Aaron Albright noted that the law "has led to millions of Americans getting access to quality and affordable health coverage."
The survey results were based on landline and cellphone interviews conducted from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 with a random sample of 42,998 adults ages 18 and older. For results based on the total sample, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 percentage point.
Gallup-Healthways - http://tinyurl.com/hc2338o

Definition of 'gun dealer' broadened http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160105/GZ01/160109795 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160105/GZ01/160109795 Tue, 5 Jan 2016 12:12:32 -0500 By Josh Lederman The Associated Press By By Josh Lederman The Associated Press WASHINGTON - Tears streaking his cheeks, President Barack Obama launched a final-year push Tuesday to tighten sales of firearms in the U.S., using his presidential powers in the absence of tougher gun restrictions that Congress has refused to pass.

The president struck a combative tone as he came out with plans for expanded background checks and other modest measures that have drawn consternation from gun rights groups, which Obama accused of making Congress their hostage. Palpable, too, was Obama's extreme frustration at having made such little progress on gun control since the killing of 20 first-graders in Connecticut confronted the nation more than three years ago.

"First-graders," Obama said woefully, resting his chin on his hand and wiping away tears as he recalled the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad."

Obama's 10-point plan to keep guns from those who shouldn't have them marked a concession by the president: He'll leave office without securing the new gun control laws he's repeatedly and desperately implored Congress to pass.

Although Obama, acting alone, can take action around the margins, only Congress can enact more sweeping changes that gun control advocates say are the only way to truly stem the frequency of mass shootings.

"It won't happen overnight," Obama said. "It won't happen during this Congress. It won't happen during my presidency." But, he added optimistically, "a lot of things don't happen overnight."

The National Rifle Association, the largest gun group, panned Obama's plan and said it was "ripe for abuse," although the group didn't specify what steps, if any, it will take to oppose or try to block it. Even Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat and gun-owner who co-wrote the bipartisan bill Obama supported in 2013, took issue with the president's move.

"Instead of taking unilateral executive action, the president should work with Congress and the American people, just as I've always done, to pass the proposals he announced today," Manchin said.

The centerpiece of Obama's plan is an attempt to narrow the loophole that exempts gun sales from background checks if the seller isn't a federal registered dealer. With new federal "guidance," the administration is clarifying that even those who sell just a few weapons at gun shows, flea markets or online can be deemed dealers and required to conduct checks on prospective buyers.

Whether that step can make a significant dent in unregulated gun sales is an open question, and one not easily answered.

Millions of guns are sold annually in informal settings outside of gun shops, including many through private sales arranged online.

But the Obama administration acknowledged it couldn't quantify how many gun sales would be newly subjected to background checks, nor how many currently unregistered gun sellers would have to obtain a license.

Easily reversible by a future president, the government's guidance to gun sellers lacks the legal oomph of a new law, such as the one Obama and likeminded lawmakers tried but failed to pass in 2013.

The Justice Department said online the guidance "has no regulatory effect and is not intended to create or confer any rights, privileges, or benefits in any matter, case, or proceeding."

What's more, none of the steps would have probably prevented any of the recent mass shootings that Obama invoked in the East Room: Aurora, Oak Creek, Charleston, Newtown, to name some. But Obama defiantly rejected that critique, dismissing it as the tired trope of gun lobbyists who question "why bother trying?"

"I reject that thinking," Obama said. "We maybe can't save everybody, but we could save some."

Hoping to give the issue a human face, the White House assembled a cross-section of Americans affected by searing recent gun tragedies, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Mark Barden, whose son was shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School, introduced the president with a declaration that "we are better than this."

Obama readily conceded the executive steps will be challenged in court, a prediction quickly echoed by Republicans.

Chuck James, a former federal prosecutor who practices firearms law at the firm Williams Mullen, said opponents are likely to challenge Obama's authority to define what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling guns beyond what's laid out in the law. The White House asserted confidence Obama was acting legally, and said Justice Department and White House lawyers had worked diligently to ensure the steps were watertight.

Other new steps include 230 new examiners the FBI will hire to process background checks, aiming to prevent delays that enabled the accused gunman in Charleston, South Carolina, to get a gun when the government took too long.

Obama is also asking the government to research smart gun technology to reduce accidental shootings and asking Congress for $500 million to improve mental health care. Other provisions aim to better track lost or stolen guns and prevent trusts or corporations from buying dangerous weapons without background checks.

Obama's announcement carved a predictably partisan fault line through the presidential campaign.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both competing for the nomination from Obama's party, pledged to build on his actions if elected. The Republican field formed a chorus of voices vowing to annul the whole package, with Marco Rubio claiming "Obama is obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment."

"Rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican. "His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty."

A year of political pregame gives way to a sprint into Iowa http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160103/GZ01/160109895 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160103/GZ01/160109895 Sun, 3 Jan 2016 08:21:55 -0500 By THOMAS BEAUMONT By By THOMAS BEAUMONT Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - It's been a year of town halls and weekend forums and lunchtime meet-and-greets for those who would be president, with nights spent sparring in televised debates and endless days fundraising to pay for TV ads, direct-mail fliers and organizers to get out the vote.

All of it is aimed at people like Jocelyn Beyer, a Republican from the small town of Sully in rural central Iowa, who says despite the many months of political clamor, she's only just now starting to think about her vote for the White House.
"I can't say I've paid much attention," Beyer said. "The moral issues are what I focus on. If I had to vote today, I'd vote for Ted Cruz."
While that's not a solid "yes" for the Texas senator, at least he's doing better with Beyer than he is with Brian Metcalf, a Republican from nearby Pella. Metcalf is thinking about Cruz, but also former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
That is, when he's spending any time thinking about the race.
"Until now, it's just been noise," he said. "But I'd like to see someone with a Reagan-esque approach."
For all the attention showered on early-state voters in the past year by candidates, their unpaid volunteers and high-dollar admakers - and, yes, journalists, too - the truth is that what happened in 2015 was only the pregame show.
The race for the White House starts in earnest this week as voters such as Beyer and Metcalf begin to tune in and the candidates try to win them over during a four-week sprint to the leadoff Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. It's then that voters have their first say and push pundits, predictions and polls aside.
"The race is still fluid," said Beth Myers, who managed 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's campaign and supports Bush in 2016. "There's still a twist or two in this primary story that we don't know yet."
Where to begin?
It's easier to start with the Democrats.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont hopes an upset in Iowa and a victory in the New Hampshire primary a week later will dent the apparent inevitability of front-runner Hillary Clinton. Wins in the first two states for the former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state would all but cement her place atop her party's ticket.
There is no such clarity in the Republican race.
Despite shedding five candidates before New Year's Day, the GOP contest is an unpredictable mix of a dozen hopefuls with vastly different visions for the party and the country.
Ahead now in Iowa is Cruz, who spent 2015 quietly building a traditional campaign apparatus and will kick off his month with a bus tour - six days, 28 cities - covering the state's most fertile ground for Republicans.
Candidates often try to recruit a political leader to stand for them in each of Iowa's 99 counties. Cruz has also sought a pastor in each to do the same, hoping to corner the market on the evangelical voters who make up a significant part of the GOP caucuses.
"For Cruz, it's about the complete consolidation of the evangelical wing to snuff the life from the others," said Phil Musser, a Republican consultant who is not affiliated with a campaign.
While Cruz has edged ahead in preference polls of Iowa voters in recent weeks, nationally, he still trails the unquestioned political star of 2015: Donald Trump.
The billionaire real-estate mogul has so far forgone the grind-it-out approach in favor of free media exposure and a few rallies a week in front of largely adoring crowds. "He says what everybody's thinking and he's not afraid to say it," said Trump supporter Bill Kullander of Des Moines.
The unknown for Trump: Are Kullander and the thousands of others who pack the bleachers at Trump's rallies likely voters or merely fans entertained by his show? "Can he expand turnout and turn these massive crowds into results?" Musser said.
Voters are not likely to find Trump dropping in at one of Iowa's many Pizza Ranch restaurants to ask for their support, as Cruz will do on his bus tour. But Trump's top adviser in Iowa is a veteran organizer who ran former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's winning 2012 caucus campaign.
Also, it's notable that after almost no paid advertising in 2015, Trump said last week he plans to start spending at least $2 million a week on TV ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which holds the South's first primary on Feb. 20.
"Honestly, I don't want to take any chances," Trump said last week.
Neither Cruz nor Trump will win the nomination with a victory in Iowa, but caucus-goers probably will deliver a verdict on whether several GOP candidates continue on to New Hampshire. Count Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the caucuses in 2008, in that group, and maybe retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, too.
Carson was an early favorite in Iowa among evangelical and tea party conservatives, but he enters January without several members of his senior staff. They quit last week and questioned his readiness for the White House on their way out.
Candidates with more traditional political experience will spend the month trying to bridge the gap between the anger and frustration that's powered Trump's rise and the Republican establishment, which desperately wants to win after eight years out of the White House.
For Rubio and Bush, as well as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, that likely means lighting the match with a strong finish in Iowa, then igniting their bid with a win in New Hampshire.
"The most important thing to watch is what happens in New Hampshire," said GOP presidential adviser Charlie Black. "That's going to set the field in terms of a mainstream candidate."
New Hampshire is where Rubio was spending Sunday, hosting four town hall meetings and a football-watching party with voters.
After falling far enough late in 2015 to get relegated to an "undercard" debate, Christie has rebounded and is getting a second look in New Hampshire, where he has spent more time than any candidate. Bush, too, has reshuffled his so-far lackluster bid and focused since November on New Hampshire.
His closing message, having tried several since entering the race in June as the early front-runner, is a direct challenge to Trump.
"He'll do damage to the conservative cause and we've got to take a stand," Bush said. "And for some odd reason I'm the only guy willing to do it."
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report.
Follow Thomas Beaumont on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/tombeaumont

Health care repeal vote to open a political year in Congress http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160102/ARTICLE/160109926 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160102/ARTICLE/160109926 Sat, 2 Jan 2016 08:45:17 -0500

WASHINGTON (AP) - This will be the year when Republicans finally put legislation on President Barack Obama's desk repealing his health care law.

It's the first order of business when the House reconvenes this coming week. And it's a sharply partisan start on Capitol Hill to an election year in which legislating may take a back seat to politics.

Obama will veto the health law repeal, which also would cut money for Planned Parenthood.

But Republicans say that will highlight the clear choice voters face in the presidential election.

In the Senate, early action will be a vote on Sen. Rand Paul's proposal for an "audit" of the Federal Reserve. That's likely to get blocked by Democrats.

But as with the House's health bill, it will answer conservative demands in an election year.